November 15, 2013

Regarding the Nov. 12 front-page article “UDC looks at cutting athletics, programs”:

The University of the District of Columbia needs athletics in the worst way. At UDC, four-year graduation rates are far too low, classes don’t sufficiently challenge students and the most prominent perception of what makes UDC worthwhile is that “it’s the cheapest around.”

The need for better curricula and greater faculty accountability must be addressed. First and foremost, however, the makeup of the student body has to improve. To attract stronger students, the school could spend tons of money to aggressively rebrand itself, and, over time, the perception of the university might get better. Or it can continue to strategically invest in an athletics program.

A strong athletics program can increase student diversity, bring in higher-quality students, improve campus and student culture and create positive publicity. Without one, the quality of UDC’s student base and the school’s academic reputation would likely decline. Within a few years of eliminating its athletics program, UDC could start looking more like a night school for the undereducated and underemployed, if not a community college masquerading as a four-year institution.

From a strategic standpoint, the UDC price tag positions the school to attract those choosing between “college” and “no college.” The school must make itself more competitive so it can win the battle between “UDC” and “every other college.” As long as the standard four-year institution invests in an athletics program, appealing to athletes and sports fans will be UDC’s best plan for filling its classrooms and coffers.

Michael King, Washington

The writer will play lacrosse for the University of the District of Columbia this spring.